I’m watching an episode of Louie where he talks about his career going nowhere (I’m sure he was engaging in hyperbole though). I’ve looked into going to some of his shows in the area in the past, they were about $40 a seat at a theater with 2000 or so seats. That works out to 80k in gross revenues for one show, assuming a sold out show (which is unlikely).
If the comedian is well known, what % of the gross goes to them?
It’s hard to say. At that level, you are past “well known” and into celebrity status, and so the percent going to the comedian will vary quite a bit.
Usually, of course, the comic is not paid a percentage; s/he is paid a fee, which in the case of a major comedian is a lot of money and is determined by the comedian. I doubt Louis CK would do a show for less than $25,000, but it could be more. The next guy to play the same venue could fill the house and only be paid $10,000.
Now, in the case of Louis CK, of course, he does a lot of his own producing and is now going around Ticketmaster so he may be assuming some of the risk and taking a percentage instead of a set fee. He is VERY rich and very successful. But even among celebrity comedians he is an outlier; he’s arguably the world’s most successful comedian right now.
As with anything else, the market rate for a specific comic’s services might be disconnected from the business’s ability to sell the resulting product.
Are there well known tiers to comedians, or is it a lot more fluid? What about a lesser known comedian like Bill Burr, or an even lesser known comedian like Doug Stanhope? What fees would they get for a venue?
I know Louie CK is doing his own production and distribution of his comedy specials, and selling them for only $5. I think he made over a million from his last one (before ‘oh my god’).
There was a very well-known Canadian comedian, Dave Broadfoot. He’d had 20 years of fame, first on CBC radio, then on TV, with the Royal Canadian Air Farce - he was so well know for his Corporal Renfrew of the RCMP (with his police dog Cuddles) that the head of the RCMP surprised him during one show with a promotion to Sargent. (I raced down the stairs, two at a time… there were thirteen stairs. … When I regained consciousness…) He occasionally played to large audiences in big auditoriums, and must have made a decent amount with the Air Farce on TV and tie-ins too. The problem with Canada is it’s not big enough to play a different 300-seat auditorium every night, or even every week.
In the early 90’s I lived in a smaller Ontario town. Some group (Rotary? Shriners?) hired this guy to be the guest comedian at one of their fundraisers, in front of 200 people. I don’t know what he got for a one-night MC job and comedy routine, but I would be very surprised if it was over about $7000 including travel expenses… and that’s for someone who was instantly recognizable at the time.
There are different models at work when you go to a performance. Sometimes the show is booked by a promoter, or the venue books the show, or the performer is hired.
I’ve heard the term “four-walling”, this is when the performer basically rents the venue and handles all the rest internally - they pickup the expenses, promote the show, pay for the printing, tickets, ushers, etc., and take the risk, pocketing the profit. That’s similar to what Louis CK does with his shows that he sells online. He cuts out all of the middle-men. I wouldn’t be too surprised if that is what he does when he performs live also - nobody is hiring him, he is renting the venue and doing all the work.
You asked about the percentage of the gross for a single performance, but I suspect you are also wanting to know about a comedian’s total income. The box office gross may only be a fraction of the total money – there may be TV shows and DVDs made from performances, inflating the effective value of a single show.
I’m going to bump this thread, because I recently saw John Mulaney in Indianapolis. He did 2 shows in a theater that holds 2500. The tickets were mostly sold out, and probably went for an average of $60 each (I was in the back and only paid $40 or so. Better tickets were over $100).
His stand up special was incredible, and I am glad he is doing well financially.
But if you do the math, he did 2 shows (an 8pm and 1030 show), at about ~5000 seats on average of $60, that is 300k in ticket sales.
Obviously a good portion of that goes to various fees for ticketmaster, as well as various fees for the theater.
But if Mulaney sold $300k in tickets, is it a safe bet he made 100-150k in that one night of touring?
I’d like to believe people like Mulaney are being well compensated for what they do.
Being able to work theaters or auditoriums is basically the top tier for comedians. There may 100 people able to do that consistently. Maybe ten could top that by selling out stadiums.
The next tier can still make a six-figure living in comedy clubs. Comedians usually get the ticket proceeds with the venue making money on drinks and food. Say five performances in a 200-seat club at $20. That’s $20,000 a week. They can’t do that every week and traveling expenses are high, but the net is still pretty good.
Beginners and local talent make much less, of course.
Interesting. In my experience most comedy clubs mandate you buy at minimum 2 items, so that is about $10 minimum in food and drinks for most people. So if I go and see a comedian at a club that seats 100, and the ticket cost $20, the comedian is getting the full $2000 and the club is making their money off the 1-2k in food and drinks they sold?
Are theaters really that hard to fill? When I say theater, I’m talking a theater that holds anywhere from 1000-5000 people. Living in a city of over a million, that doesn’t sound impossible. I would’ve assumed there are hundreds of comedians who can fill a small theater of 1-5k people.
I live in a metro area of about a million and we don’t have more than half a dozen theater shows from comedians a year. Maybe the biggest cities have them all the time but for most it’s an event.
Look at John Mulaney. Seven shows in New York, then one in Grand Rapids, two in Cleveland, two at a casino, and one in Hollywood, FL, which is greater Miami.
Here’s a Ticketmaster page for Upstate New York. Jeff Dunham, Lewis Black, Kevin Hart, Bill Engvall, Colin Quinn, Gabriel Iglesias, Jim Gaffigan. A couple of multi-name tours and some casino shows. Spread over four months. Upstate is kind of a performance desert but you can’t extrapolate two people a month over half a dozen cities into hundreds of touring comedians. Try Chicago. Lots and lots of comedy in one of the country’s premiere comedy cities. But I count only a half dozen single act theater dates for February. Getting that to 100 over a year is a stretch.
Colin Quinn was famous 20 years ago for being on SNL. That is what I mean, if people who were bit players on a TV show 20 years ago are selling out theaters, then why aren’t there hundreds (if not thousands) of comedians selling out theaters that hold 1000-5000 people? I’d assume almost any comedian who has a netflix special can sell 1000 ticket theaters out.
Edit, apparently the theater Quinn is performing at only holds 500 people. But still, assuming $35 tickets that is still 18k in sales in one show.
How do performers get booked? Do their people call a venue and say "My client would like to do a show in your facility… " or does someone else approach the performer and ask if he/she would do a show? Is the procedure similar for booking an entire tour?